On 28 June 2021, the Geneva Cities Hub (GCH) and UN-Habitat partnered with UNECE, UNDRR and the World Bank to organize the 3rd Geneva Urban Debate (GUD): “Post-Covid Economic & Financial Recovery: What about the City”? Although the crisis is not over and efforts are ongoing to address its impacts, recovery strategies must already be planned for. The event thus enabled the participants to share concrete practices, tools and strategies for cities to recover economically and financially from the Covid crisis.
The GUD gathered municipal representatives from Kisela Voda – North Macedonia, Teresina – Brazil, Arua – Uganda and London – United Kingdom. These cities, as well as Bishkek – Kyrgyzstan, were introduced by representatives from the aforementioned International Organizations. The GUD was moderated by Graham Alabaster, Head, Geneva Office, UN Habitat and Kamelia Kemileva, Co-Director, GCH.
The event provided an opportunity to introduce the Global Compendium of Practices on Local Economic and Financial Recovery (edited by UN Habitat and its partners) which document measures that cities from all regions undertook to face the economic downfall caused by the public health crisis. Shining a light on pre-existing challenges prevailing in 20 cities and on the main economic and financial impacts of the Covid crisis, the Global Compendium offers an overview of the cities’ crisis response and recovery measures. Its objective is to derive lessons learned in order to inform the development of strategies for the future of cities in crisis. Esteban Leon, Chief, City Resilience Global Program, UN-Habitat stressed that “the main lesson to be drawn is that cities which have best managed the crisis are those who have been flexible in the allocation of resources and capacities to support their citizens”.
Another key takeaway is that there exist a number of tools developed by International Organizations which can contribute to support and accelerate cities’ recovery. These include the Urban Economic Resilience Performance Diagnostic and Planning tool, the Municipal Financial Self-Assessment tool as well as the City Resilience Profiling Tool.
For instance, the municipality of Kisela Voda explained how the Municipal Financial Self-Assessment Tool of the World Bank helped them assess their financial health and identify specific action to improve the mobilization of local resources, such as the increase of land development fees or the selling of municipal assets. UN Habitat accompanied the city of Teresina in creating a city resilience profile and identify actions to enhance resilience. These actions targeted the labor market for instance, with micro-credits or digital capacity building programs for small informal entrepreneurs, including women working in the informal sector. This also constituted an opportunity to bring them into the formal economy.
The city of Arua was supported by the UN Capital Development Fund in order to rebuild local fiscal space, which was significantly impacted by the Covid crisis. The recovery strategy pursued put a strong emphasis on a people-centered Public Private Partnerships, work related to city branding in order to attract investments and boost local economic development, as well as urban farming. Wadri Sam Nyakua, Mayor of Arua highlighted that “having direct planning, coordination and support for recovery strategies at local level rather than through central government will help fasten the process, since each urban community has unique challenge”.
Part of the Making resilient cities 2030 global partnership which aim at strengthening local resilience, the city of London, detailed some of its measures to foster economic recovery. This includes efforts to maintain the symbiotic relationship between all components of the complex economic ecosystem of Central London, including through the mayor’s recovery fund, business support and innovation programs. The city of London stressed the importance of close cooperation and partnership with the central government to address the challenges of the Covid crisis.
To conclude, Kamelia Kemileva, Co-director, Geneva Cities Hub recalled that the co-organizers of the event had offered to develop case studies of additional cities to be included in the Global Compendium. Cities are therefore invited to apply by email, so that they may benefit from the accompaniment from UN Habitat and its partners to strengthen economic and financial resilience.
Weblinks to the various tools presented during the GUD and the GUD partners are available on the Geneva Urban Debates website.